Monday, July 31, 2017

A Song for Charlie

My songwriting group and I (at Bergen Community College) were inspired and moved by the story of Charlie Gard. We wrote this song for him and his family with the intention of bringing both attention and support to their efforts. We mourn his passing and salute his and his parents' valiant struggle.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The PS 452 Song

Thanks to PS 452's very talented kids from 4th grade. We all wrote this song together about how they feel like their school is an extended family; really nice sentiments and a good little song.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Summer at BCC

We had a great group in this year's songwriting workshop, and while we wrote some really good, serious songs I just had to share this one because it was so much fun and because of a spontaneous outburst of dancers...It was a riot; thanks, guys for making this workshop so much fun. Here's a link to the video:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bergen Community College Child Development Center

What a great opportunity to work with Sally Dionisio's very enthusiastic and lovable pre-schoolers. We explored rhythm, pitch and dynamics, and how those elements in the form of fast and slow, high and low, and loud and soft affected the way we feel. We played some fun games and have co-written the better part of a song called, 'Firetruck' that we're looking forward to finishing when we return in the spring. Many thanks to Sally and her helpful staff.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Songwriting Workshop at BCC

A special thanks to the very talented songwriters who took our songwriting workshop at Bergen Community College.

We explored some important ideas through interesting perspectives. We wrote a song about a young Asian girl who was housebound  due to the alarming amounts of toxic air blanketing cities across China. Another song, which addressed personal resilience, called 'Waterproof,' was conceived and completed on the very first day! We'll be posting links to them, and others soon. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Columbia University Teachers College:

Here is the original article we referenced at the March 28th workshop:

LOS ANGELES — Marcquees Banks has been taken out of class twice in three years for fighting with other students. He was even sent to another school. Something different happened the third time he got into a fight: A counselor at Augustus Hawkins High School in South Los Angeles pulled Banks and the other teen aside. He told the two they needed to talk to each other. The counselor is named Joseph Luciani. He asked the teens to explain why they had fought, and how they felt.

A New Approach
The school's new approach to students who get into trouble is known as restorative justice. The idea is to get students to work out their differences with counselors, and to avoid suspending students, if possible. "I realized we had a lot of similarities," said Banks, age 17, talking of the student he had been fighting with. Banks said his father is in a gang and his mother has no job. The new approach has led to big changes. In the 2006-2007 school year, students in LA were suspended for 74,765 days. Last year, they were suspended for only 8,351.

These days, teachers and students are encouraged to talk to each other. They gather in weekly circles to discuss problems. One-on-one "harm circles" let students, parents and counselors meet when problems between students come up.

Teaching The Teachers
Not everyone is sure restorative justice will work, though. Some worry that it could make teachers afraid to suspend anyone, no matter what they do. Some students might act up even more. So far, restorative justice seems to be working at Augustus Hawkins High School. The school opened in 2012 in a poor and rough part of Los Angeles. At first, the school's principals suspended a lot of students. Then, they began looking for another way to handle kids who get into trouble.
The school ended up hiring Joseph Luciani. Over the summer, Luciani trained teachers to use restorative justice in the classroom.

Try A Counselor First
Luciani taught teachers how to build trust between students and teachers. Once a week, teachers gathered students together and 

asked questions about their lives. Students talked about relatives who have been killed or sent out of the country by the government.
Students are no longer automatically suspended when they cause trouble. Teachers try to handle the situation in class. If that does not work, they send the student to a counselor. Students who still continue to cause trouble are then sent to the principal. If necessary, they are suspended. These days, many fewer kids at Augustus Hawkins are getting suspended.

A Different Future?
However, some wonder if students who are not suspended learn that what they did is wrong? Or are they simply getting away with misbehaving? Howard Zehr is an expert on restorative justice. He says students learn what they did is wrong when they talk directly to the students they harmed. 

Still, some say that restorative justice will not work in many schools. These people point out that most schools do not have a full-time restorative justice counselor, like Augustus Hawkins does.

As for Banks, he said he has begun thinking differently about his future. He said he always thought he would end up in jail, because that is what others expected. Now, he wants to be a counselor.

 "Reprinted with Permission of the Associated Press" 

These lyrics were constructed from several readings and interpretation of the text of the above article:

You get into my face
I get into a fight
I got my answers here
both in my left and right

It’s what a man should do 
I see my daddy who 
He wears his colors true 
just like your daddy do

That’s all there’ll ever be 
all that’ll come of me
If I don’t turn the page
and find another way

Harm Circle 
It’s where I take a turn
Harm Circle is where my voice is heard
and where I hear your voice is, too

I never thought that I 
could be the talkin kind
I do what I decide 
and then let my fists fly

That’s all there’ll ever be 
all that’ll come of me
if I don’t turn the page 
and find another way

Harm circle 
is where I take a turn
Harm Circle
is where I talk it through
and where I feel ok with you

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thanks to all who attended Transdisciplinary Teaching: Lifting Our Ideas with Songwriting.
You can listen to the songs we used as examples here: